Society Still Stands

Writing for Rights

Right to Marry Day


Mombian organized a carnivalfor today, against Proposition 8 in California. Proposition 8 is one of the cynical moves to make a state’s constitutional amendment against same-sex couples. In the case of California, this would have the effect of ending state recognition of marriages made legally.

Susan at Crunchy Granola mentioned that Apple publically has spoken out against Proposition 8; I think it is a very good sign that public, corporate institutions are standing up for human rights in this sphere. It seems to me that the first fight in any human rights campaign is to publically acheive recognition that the people who are suffering discrimination are in fact human and deserving of equal rights – a ghastly struggle, sometimes – and every time a large group acknowledges that publically, the harder it is to ignore the claim.

I hope it is enough: I hope Proposition 8 goes down in flames.

I do not understand the feeling of threat people seem to get from the idea of same sex marriage. It makes less sense to me than the homophobe who is repressing their own attractions, or the male misogynist homophobe afraid of being treated like he treats the objects of his desire.  Both of those are impulse control repressions. But what private contracts other people are able to enter into regarding wealth and parenting is a different sort of homophobia – a considered punishment for being. That is repugnant.

Gay families are, and always will be. We’ve had same sex marriage in Canada for 3 years. July 20, 2005, it became legal across Canada – in BC, the province in which I live, there’ve been same sex marriages since 2003.

I have also been married during that time. At no point have married gay people threatened my marriage. Society still stands around us. We still marry and divorce at about the same rates.

Defenders of “traditional” marriage cause my eyes to cross. Pretty much everywhere, traditionally, marriage was an economic unit, a little outpost of two in a Corporation of Family. These corporate/familial systems were nurtured by being geographically stable; they were the embodiment of survival, necessary in limited range of motion, scarce resources, and the inevitability of children. 

This is still true in some places. My mom-in-law, travelling in Vietnam, was given props for being the mother of two boys. However, the women she met in the compounds were most interested in pictures of me. I looked ‘sweet’ they said, the opposite of ‘sour’ – I was a good match and I would do for the family as my duties required me to. My mom-in-law had done well in the mergers and acquisitions game, acquiring a non-confrontational apprentice for the next generation of family management. (My own poor mother, with only daughters, would be left with no employees.)

Fealty, obedience, and commitment were at least as important as love, if not more so: and although all the varying religious marital traditions have had sects or groups who have stressed the importance of balance, harmony, and consent, this has very often been secondary to duty and performing the given marital role. Too much ‘couple-wrapped-up-in-each-other’ wasn’t really useful for extended family networks, and extended family networks were part of the business of marriage.

I’d imagine most of us (male and female) who have the option of controlling our fertility don’t want or need a “traditional” marriage, anymore. We may need marriage for self, but we don’t need family for basic survival. We don’t live in static societies geographically. We flow across the landscape, our little family units coalescing and scattering.  With women not being ‘in confinement’ or nursing for 20 odd years of their lives, it’s not as necessary to form these structures.

We’ve been abandoning the laws that codify these traditional family structures. We have no-fault divorce. Women can own property. A penis does not guarantee that your decisions are final.

I can see that, in the case of baby every time I’d had sex, the military unit would be a blessing, a place of trust (as long as the ‘head of the family’ was benevolent.) And I am, in some ways, “traditional” – family and friends being nearby is more important to me than most of my generation.

Still, you couldn’t pay me to get into a “traditional” marriage. The people who want these marriage traditions still exist! I’ve talked to wives in blog comments (at The Happy Feminist’s) and have been amazed at words like “Someone’s got to be the final word, the boss: of course my husband always consults me” – but then I think, yes, being Taken Care Of holds some power, even still. But due to education, specialization, and the ability to have sex without having 2 years of relative physical vulnerability, I can take care of myself.

So traditional been losing ground. Our new concept in marriages, based primarily on respect and pair-bonding - well, we’re still getting used to them. Divorce is part of the package, because in order to have true power in relationships, you have to be able to choose. My non-heirarchical respect unit of two, my corporation with two CEOs –  this I love, and I choose, every morning. I could walk away, sell my shares, should I decide. So could he. We work at it because we want to, we negotiate, and support.

But THAT is no more traditional than is Cheez Whiz.

Same sex marriages have nothing to do with the unravelling of the traditional marriage. It’s unraveling, and I pray that we will never be in such dire straits that it needs to come back.

I imagine historical same-sex couples probably had a lot to teach us, if we were listening, about units based on love and respect: those who came together even in hostile societies, often cut off from family support… it was same sex couples who were pioneers into commitment for love first. Unfortunately, our fear and prejudice didn’t acknowledge those commitments.

So, to those who defend the traditional marriage, I say two things: first, it was straight people who walked away, and second, KEEP IT. You want to work like that, marrying to bind families together and having a Quiverful of babies?

Let our love-matches not stop you.

However, by that traditional definition, my marriage is queer. And it does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.


  1. Preach it.

  2. Arwen, you are my cup of steamy, black coffee on a rainy Wednesday morning. Amen, sister.

  3. Arwen,

    What a great message. I particularly liked “However, by that traditional definition, my marriage is queer. And it does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.”

    I, too, have a “queer” marriage, in as much as my husband and I declined to procreate. It never seems to have stopped others from doing so.

    Thanks for the coherent thoughts.

  4. Fabulous post, as usual.

  5. This is awesome, Arwen, just awesome.

  6. Yep. Awesome.

  7. Very insightful and thought-provoking. I had read that in addition to homophobia, some opposition to same-sex marriage stems from the fact that a marriage between two of the same-sex shows that the gender hierarchy of “traditional” marriage is not necessary. As you point out, though, in plenty of “traditional-appearing” marriages, that hierarchy isn’t present either. But I guess you could imagine that it was there.

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